Occupational Demand, Cumulative Disadvantage, and Gender: Differences in University Graduates’ Early Career Earnings

  • Michael Robert Smith McGill University
  • Sean Waite University of Western Ontario
Keywords: Earnings, Gender, University Graduates, Occupational Demand, Cumulated Disadvantage, Tech Boom.


A number of mechanisms contribute to the gender earnings gap – both its level and trends in it. We focus on three of them: occupational demand, the cumulation of disadvantage that originates in the unequal domestic division of labour, and labour market statuses which also may originate in the domestic division of labour. We show that changes in occupational demand associated with the dot-com boom and what followed it have caused substantial shifts in the relative earnings of young male and female university graduates. We provide evidence of how one consequence of the domestic division of labour – differences in hours worked by gender - contribute to the size and growth of the female earnings disadvantage. And, even in our generally young sample, human capital accumulation is more likely to be disrupted for women than for men. We identify several methodological and substantive implications of our results.

Author Biographies

Michael Robert Smith, McGill University
James McGill Professor of Sociology
Sean Waite, University of Western Ontario
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology